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J Appl Physiol (1985). 1986 Jul;61(1):160-4.

Fetal breathing and behavior measured through a double-wall Plexiglas window in sheep.


The inability to see the fetus makes the assessment of fetal behavior difficult. To circumvent this problem we implanted a Plexiglas window in the left flank of the ewe. Fetuses were instrumented for measurements of sleep, breathing, and swallowing. Ten fetal sheep were studied on 32 occasions. Six fetuses were delivered through the window at term, and postnatal behavior was compared with intrauterine behavior. Fetuses observed during resting conditions alternated between periods of quiet sleep [high-voltage electrocortical activity (ECoG)] and active or rapid-eye-movement sleep (low-voltage ECoG). In quiet sleep, movements were absent except for periodic generalized electromyographic discharges. Eye and breathing movements were rare or absent. Swallowing was also absent. In active sleep, movements were increased with powerful breathing and swallowing activity. Fetal wakefulness defined by open eyes and purposeful movements of the head was never seen in utero but was clearly observed after delivery. We conclude that fetal wakefulness as defined postnatally was not able to be demonstrated in utero.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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